ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. – The wait for justice is ending in St. Charles County. The courthouse has cleared the requirements to operate under Phase 3 of the Missouri Supreme Court’s COVID-19 guidelines, meaning criminal trials can again move forward.
It’s a huge step for cases the prosecutor says have been on hold for too long; at the top of the list, the death penalty case against Darren Emery.
“That’s a capital murder case that was scheduled to begin this week,” said St. Charles County Prosecutor Tim Lohmar.
Emery is accused of shooting and killing his girlfriend, 39-year-old Kate Kasten, and three others; Kasten’s daughter, 8-year-old Zoe, her son, 10-year-old Jonathan, and her mother, 61-year-old Jane Moeckel.
The murders took place inside Kasten’s St. Charles home in December 2018.
Even with the courthouse open again, his trial has been delayed again.
“With the uncertainty, COVID, and how things may transpire in the future, we couldn’t risk starting a four-week trial now at this point in the calendar year,” Lohmar said. “So, we pushed that out until June; again, just delayed. But unfortunately, it’s a necessity right now.”
Also on the priority list is the trial of Devon Coleman, accused of killing his girlfriend’s infant son in O’Fallon, Missouri in December 2017. It’s now set for May.
Jury selection has shifted to the Family Arena, with jury pools still deemed too big for the courthouse.
Criminal cases with child victims are being prioritized, according to Lohmar.
Though the backlog of cases is overwhelming, he said he would not cut deals to lighten the load.
“We have 218 cases that are set between now and the end of the year. Some of those will resolve themselves. One (of my) attorneys alone has 50 cases that are scheduled for jury trial just this year. That’s a staggering number,” Lohmar said. “There are times we wish we could move a case. We could if we offered a sweetheart deal but we’re not going to do that. I think our victims, while it may be frustrating, are ultimately going to respect that.”
St. Louis City and County courthouses remain closed for jury trials under the Missouri Supreme Court’s COVID-19 guidelines.